Building » Leigh – Sacred Heart

Leigh – Sacred Heart

Walmesley Road, Leigh, WN7

A large 1920s town church, built of red brick in Gothic style. The attractive exterior is prominent in the street scene, with a tower and gabled roofs. The spacious interior retains some good fittings and finishes.

In 1902 William Fairclough, a solicitor, bought land for a school/chapel. The foundation stone was laid on 3 October 1903 by Archbishop Whiteside, and the building opened on 26 August 1904. The architect was D. Powell and the builders H. & F. Lomax. Fr J. Unsworth was the first priest; the upper floor church seated 600 with capacity in the ground floor school for 160 infants and 240 scholars. This building remains in use as the Sacred Heart School but is due to be demolished. The present large church was built on land to the south of the school; Bishop Dobson laid the foundation stone on 9 May 1928. The church was designed by Anthony Ellis and cost £20,000.


The large town church is faced in drag-wire red brick, laid in English garden wall bond, with sandstone details. The steeply-pitched roofs are laid with Welsh slates. The church is designed in a late thirteenth century geometric Gothic style. It has a cruciform plan with the liturgical east end to the north. The west front faces the street with two pointed arched doorways, the left entrance in the tower, the right in a gabled south porch. The low two-stage northwest tower has louvred pointed bell openings and a parapet with pinnacles. The west end of the nave is gabled with a four-light pointed window above a gabled niche with a standing statue of the Sacred Heart in memory of Fr Unsworth, the first parish priest. To the east end, gabled chapels flank the gabled sanctuary with a five-light pointed window. The early twentieth century red brick presbytery is linked to the church by a lobby behind the south porch, leading into the narthex. The sacristies, confessionals and flower room are located on the liturgical south side of the church, under a pitched roof. This area was extended in the 1970s with a corridor and chapel under a flat roof; this faces a small inner courtyard now used as a meditation garden. Aisle windows are three-light pointed openings with plain glass. Gabled north and south transepts have brightly-coloured stained glass installed in the 1990s.

Internally, the west end of the church is arranged with a narthex and baptistery beneath the organ loft. The five-bay aisle arcades have pointed arches on moulded piers; clerestory windows are within the roof. Internal walls are plastered above pine dado panelling. The pointed vaulted nave ceiling is boarded. The sanctuary is flanked by chapels to the Sacred Heart and Our Lady, to the north and south respectively. The east end was re in 1998, with a nave altar platform, but the sanctuary retains the marble high altar with Gothic reredos. The original pine altar rail is  now incorporated into the late twentieth century glazed narthex screen. Other original fittings include pine bench seating, to serve the original capacity of 800. The narthex baptistery retains an octagonal stone font with mosaic wall decoration and statues of St Ambrose and St Vincent de Paul. The Pendlebury pipe organ is said to be a good instrument.

Heritage Details

Architect: Anthony Ellis

Original Date: 1928

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Not Listed